Sometimes extra sweetness can be deadly

Sugar?? No, thanks !!!! That’s what you should be saying next time someone asks whether you need extra sugar in your tea, coffee or whatever.

Seriously, we are eating too much sugar, knowingly or unknowingly, and it’s doing us no good. Sometimes extra sweetness can be deadly. Especially if it’s an artificial sweetener.

With this blog post we will learn why and how sugar can be deadly and to try to find out better sugar substitute. Keep reading because things are about to get too sweet.

What is sugar ?

In simple terms, sugar is a simple carbohydrate. See, it’s that simple. Carbohydrates are of 2 types, simple and complex. Simple carbs are sugar, as it has simple structure, are easily and quickly utilized by the body for energy. They get digested quicker than you write a blog post. While, complex carbs takes time to get digested.

And that’s not a good thing, when things are getting digested faster, that means your internal organs have to work a little bit harder. It’s like you are making the worker of the company work harder, without treating them well, and what will they do? They will revolt. So when you eat too much sugar, your internal organs take unwanted stress to process that and in result they crash.

Our body convert carbs and sugar from the food into glucose (also a type of sugar in blood), while this is happening pancreas release insulin which allows body to use the sugar and use it as energy.

So Red Bull doesn’t give you wings, it’s sugar and mainly all the artificial sweetener.

Anyway, where was I; Yeah, on a healthy diet everything will run smoothly, the pancreas will do its job quietly, like a well paid worker and appropriate quantity of insulin is released. But when you go Hulk smash on the sugar and take an absurd amount of sugar, then the pancreas will go berserk and will release too much insulin.

When such demand is always high, like if you are always eating too much sugar, it will cause trouble in your paradise like diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.

How much sugar is good for us?

There are various standardization for how much sugar is recommended for daily consumption. For the sake of simplicity, I will provide a basic guideline.

Men should not consume more than 9 tablespoons or 36 grams of sugar per day, while women should limit their intake to 6 tablespoons or 25 grams of sugar daily. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) also suggests a maximum daily sugar intake of 30 grams.

However, our primary concern is not the natural sugars found in food, but rather the artificial sweeteners that are added to our food.

What is artificial sweetener?

Artificial sweetener or unnatural sugar or empty sugar is additional sugar that is added to food. It is processed, with its primary purpose being to enhance flavor, texture, and the shelf life of the food.

Interestingly, it’s everywhere, from sauces to drinks. It enhances the taste and makes it more delicious. I’ve already discussed ultra-processed foods, and artificial sweeteners are among them.

Artificial sweetener in our food

These come in many names and are very sneaky, like a lizard hidden in our home that you cannot spot at once. You may read added sugar or unnatural sugar by names like maple syrup, corn sugar, sugar malt, rice syrup, dextrose, cane juice, inverted sugar, etc

What makes the sugar bad?

Sugar may not necessarily be bad, but eating more than our daily need makes it bad for our health. Too much sugar is linked to metabolic disorders, diabetes, dental problems, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, and premature aging of the skin, among other issues.

I will discuss this in more detail in the fourth part of this series.

We may not need to consider natural sugars like fructose found in honey, jaggery, fruits, and vegetables, or lactose present in milk and dairy products. These types of natural sugars give the food its natural sweetness.

If a food item contains 10 g of total sugar and from that, 8 g is added sugar, then clearly, that 8g is artificial sweetener, added to enhance the flavor. We need to watch out for added sugar or uncommon names.

Why do we crave for sugar?

We often feel the need to eat something sweet, as if there’s a craving for something sugary. This craving is nothing but an imbalance of glucose levels in our bodies.

We often think that if we eat sugar (or chocolate commonly) during such times, we will satisfy our lust for sugar, but we end up craving more. In fact, in a study, it was found that sugar provides a higher reward to the brain than cocaine.

Sugar cravings may often lead to a sugar rush. During a sugar rush, we experience a sudden spike in energy and a sudden drop. Followed by fatigue, hunger, metabolic imbalance,etc.

This is a marketing tactic that energy drinks use to sell their products, as thirst is often related to a lack of sugar, and consuming sugar may provide instant energy.

When we are stressed, our brains need energy, and typically, sugar, chocolate, or something sweet seems like an easy option to give the brain the energy it craves. This response is automatic, as when we eat something sweet, the brain releases dopamine (the feel-good hormone). This experience is remembered, and we know that to feel good, we need something similar to the last time.

Some people also become hungry during this time (not all). They may not need something sweet, but they want energy and a similar experience.

Different varieties of sugar

If we specifically talk about edible crystal sugar or syrups, there are various varieties available in the market nowadays.

These sugars are seen as sugar substitutes and are sold as sugar substitutes:

  • Coconut sugar: It is made from dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Compared to regular sugar, coconut sugar contains potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, etc., but it is high in calories.
  • Honey: Honey is often seen as a healthy alternative to sugar. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and has a low glycemic index (GI). However, it has more calories than regular sugar. For example, 20 grams of honey contain 64 calories.
  • Brown sugar: Brown sugar is made from molasses, which is a syrup made from boiling sugarcane juice until it forms crystals. These crystals are used as sugar, and the remaining syrup is used as molasses syrup (which is used separately). Normal sugar is then added to this syrup and boiled once again to create brown sugar. It is considered a healthy sugar alternative as it has more vitamins than regular sugar, but it is similar in calories.
  • Jaggery powder: Jaggery powder is made from jaggery, which is produced from sugarcane juice. This juice is boiled and allowed to cool down, and then jaggery is shaped for sale. In jaggery, molasses are not removed. In India, jaggery is quite popular and used as a sweet after dinner. It is known to be great for digestion as it is rich in fibers. Jaggery has a similar calorie content as normal sugar.
  • Stevia sugar: It is extracted from the stevia leaf and is considered to be 100 times sweeter than regular sugar. It has no calories and is considered a much safer option.
  • Monk fruit sugar: Similar to stevia sugar, monk fruit sugar has no calories. However, the major problem is its cost and availability. While sugar seems to be much cheaper and easily available, not many people know about monk fruit sugar due to its high cost and limited availability.

There are more varieties like Organic sugar, Xylitol, Yacon syrup, Erythritol, etc. But again, these may not be easily available everywhere and may need more studies backing them.

In conclusion

Look, I won’t suggest that you stop eating sugar immediately. I even attempted a no-sugar diet, but I failed on the first day, thanks to my mother’s lemon tea. Such challenges are unrealistic. Sugar intake can be reduced gradually; for example, if you’re accustomed to using 4 tablespoons of sugar in your tea, try reducing it to 3 and then 2.

Consuming foods high in fiber and protein not only fills the stomach but also provides the necessary energy. Healthy fats are the best source of energy. Such foods improve the digestive system and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Overall, reading food labels is a good practice. We should learn more about what we are eating.

You may need to talk to a health expert or a medical professional before making any changes in the diet.


Some frequently asked questions

What is type 2 Diabetes

A condition where cells don’t respond to insulin and glucose from food is not used as energy. The glucose remains in blood, and it causes too much sugar in blood.

Is Diabetes is only common for adults?

No, kids can also have diabetes. It is linked to unhealthy eating habits and obesity.

How to reverse damage done by sugar?

Simply by limiting the sugar and sticking to a healthy diet, that includes fiber & protein. With that, adding regular exercise is a great way for a healthy life.

Do I need to get a sugar substitute?

Sugar substitute may not be for everyone. It has more nutrients but may not be cost effective. What we need is ditching the artificial sweetener.

What is Glycaemic index?

Different food are rated from 0-100, call is Glycaemic index or GI. The higher the number means food will have higher impact on blood sugar levels and will get digested faster. A lower score means food will have less impact on blood sugar levels.

Other posts in this series

You know what’s sweet? Your smile!!!! Keep smiling ๐Ÿ™‚

47 responses to “Sometimes extra sweetness can be deadly”

  1. Thanks! It’s interesting to learn about all of the different kinds of sugar. I found coconut palm sugar at the grocery store and, thanks to your post, see there are good reasons to prefer it, although of course it’s important to try to use it very sparingly.

  2. I became addicted to sugar some years ago so I finally made a decision to quit. A few years later, I’ve cut back on sugar a lot. I no longer eat dessert-type food. That has made it awkward when friends want to go out for dessert but I don’t eat dessert with them. It’s possible to have a low sugar diet.

  3. Great article! When my boyfriend gave up ultra processed food he inadvertently ended up cutting out almost all sugar from his diet and got really bad withdrawal headaches. A bit of fruit or honey helped him through it

  4. Thanks, Devang. Limiting sugar is an important part of my diet in order to keep emotional balance and avoid mood swings. Thanks for describing jaggery, I hadn’t heard of it before.

    • Oh jaggery is very popular in india!
      It’s usually eaten after dinner as a treat.

      Then in winter people eat corn or pearl millet chapati with gur ( jaggery).

      It comes in different shape, color and size.
      I used to have jaggery powder in curd, but now stopped it due to additional sugar.

  5. Really informative post. I don’t eat refined sugar, we make our own molasses from sugarcane juice and use that sparingly when needed. In general, I don’t eat any sugar or sweetener at all as my body doesn’t properly process it.

    • Oh thanks for sharing that!!
      I wonder how you get sugarcane juice on a regular basis ๐Ÿค”

      Also, if you don’t eat any sugar, how come you are this sweet? ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

      • We have sugarcane here all year around. Sugarcane juice is always available fresh ๐Ÿ˜Š

        I’m good at hiding my true colours lol jk ๐Ÿ˜…

      • We have sugarcane too
        In fact neighbouring state is largest producer of sugarcane.
        But well, it’s a tough task to buy it and then make juice out of it and than molasses ๐Ÿ˜…

        The best way to describe you is tangy ๐Ÿ˜Š

      • That makes sense, tangy is my favourite type of food ๐Ÿ˜†

        It’s easy in Kenya because there’s always someone who does it for you lol. Plus, I just do it once a year. Molasses is very concentrated so you only need a little. A small jar of it can easily last an year or more.

      • Here are sugarcane juice around every corner
        But molasses is very rare
        People don’t know much about it anyway ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ
        Here jaggery is very popular. But sugar crystals is more popular than anything

        I don’t know that can it be used for the year
        Plus, I didn’t know you also do such stuff. Like seeing PG in kitchen sounds like a different story ๐Ÿ˜€

      • That’s now. When my mum lived in India making molasses with sugarcane juice was quite popular. People don’t want to make things at home these days ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

        I like to make a lot of stuff from scratch and I’m a little crazy in the kitchen ๐Ÿ˜…

  6. I canโ€™t avoid it here unless I donโ€™t eat. Literally everything here is processed and it annoys me. Some days I donโ€™t want to eat at all, but I donโ€™t think Iโ€™d do as well as others so I eat.

    • Try to stick to more healthy option
      Like fruits and veggies
      Like if you are snacking, maybe try it with fruit.

      A sweet made at home much better than outside. However, it’s not possible always.

      But if you are eating a chocolate for example, learn about it and compare it with other options.

      • I like fruits and vegetables but like I said, theyโ€™re extremely processed here. I eat salads and other meals and get reflux or feel bad still afterwards. I do have sometime to do things, but not always.

        Itโ€™s just like if I eat salads everyday, I wonโ€™t lose weight unless I eat only some tomatoes and lettuce. I probably push my chances of a bacterial infection, anemia, acid reflux, and other issues.

        I canโ€™t eat a lot of desserts anymore because they trigger my acid reflux or my lactose intolerance. I ate a popsicle even though itโ€™s cold here and just regretted it because it โ€œnatural flavorsโ€ and now my stomach hurts. Canโ€™t win for nothing.

        I have to be careful with chocolate because eating too much makes me feel bad because the sugar and milk content.๐Ÿ’€

  7. A nice informative post! I had seen a video made by a doctor (or quack, I don’t know) claiming that even one kg of mango will not harm a diabetic patient, as it contains fructose. I know GI of mangoes is moderate, but one kg? I couldn’t believe. What’s your take, Devang?

    • Upto 100 gm won’t be harmful to people with diabetes.

      Mango is high in fiber, calcium and other essential nutrient.

      It’s GI is moderate, so if eaten too much, it can harm too ๐Ÿ˜Š

  8. I love sweet things so much!! But I donโ€™t eat anything processed or with fructose syrup, I use brown sugar for my coffee and try to eat fruit when I need something sweet. This was very informative and very important to read for Americans lol. Thank you for sharing Devang. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Americans consume a lot of sugar ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ
      Like almost thrice what’s recommended.

      Fruits are great option.
      Give something healthy and filling

  9. Great Post as always D with sound advice:
    “So Red Bull doesnโ€™t give you wings, itโ€™s sugar and mainly all the artificial sweetener.” Right on.
    did you add potatoes and pasta on this sugar conversion?
    Also, I’ve been seeing some articles in my training periodicals saying Stevia creates certain issues now too. Have you seen that?

    I’m not giving up my chocolate but moderation is good. I used to eat a box at a time.. Yikes., It’s all true, I cannot tell a lie. ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿ’•

    • Can’t talk much about potatoes and pasta much

      Pasta have gi of 50-55
      Potato are high in gi

      But they have other advantages. It’s like 2 sided sword.

      There are not much concrete research about stevia and monkfruit sugar

      Tho they have no gi and calories, still could cause some irritations and reaction. We need to be in moderation.

      Now I know why are you so sweet, with all that chocolate you have been eating

  10. Reading this at the time of Diwali๐Ÿ˜…

    I love sweets, but i would try to keep a check on my total sugar intake.

    Hope you are having a good time!
    Keep writing๐Ÿ˜Š

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